With a rich history going back to 1948, Yema is arguably the most famous French watchmaking company. For a few years now, the brand is back to a certain glory, with the introduction of multiple watches inspired by its past, creating quite some noise around the brand. Leading this strategy is the Superman, the brand’s emblematic dive watch, which we’ve seen in multiple iterations. But there’s far more than this piece to Yema. For 2021, the Morteau-based watchmaker is releasing three neo-vintage models equipped with an in-house movement, alongside a historical book – Time of Heroes – thanks to a Kickstarter campaign starting on November 15th. Here are the Yema Wristmaster Adventurer & Wristmaster Traveller models.
Yema, and a book to tell its story
Yema was founded in 1948 by Henry Louis Belmont (also known as Henri Blum) in the French Jura region, next to the Swiss border. Following its creation, the brand will become the most prominent watchmaking company in France, being the leading exporter of French watches with more than 500,000 watches sold every year across 50 countries – with peaks of production of almost 2 million watches a year at a certain point. The brand has left an undeniable mark on French-based watchmaking, with its watches worn by Formula 1 champion Mario Andretti or at the North Pole… Also, Yema was the first French watch into space in 1982, on the wrist of Jean-Loup Chrétien. And of course, there’s the 1963 Superman, the emblematic model of the brand. Yet, from the mid-1980s to recent years, the situation will be more difficult.
Sold to Matra in 1982, and later owned by Seiko from 1988 to 2004, it will return to French hands in 2004, before the Bôle family and group Montres Ambre took over in 2009. For 4 years now, a lot of energy has been put into bringing back the brand to its former glory. This strategy included the creation of an in-house movement, the launch of several vintage-inspired models and, later this year, new modern spaces and equipment following the expansion of the workshops in Morteau.
2021 and the introduction of the Yema Wristmaster collection will also mark the launch of a book retracing the brand’s history, a publication named Time of Heroes and written by Marie-Pia Coustans, a renowned writer specialised in French watchmaking history. The book will be included with each purchase of the new Yema Wristmaster through the Kickstarter campaign.
The Yema Wristmaster Adventurer
Behind the name Wristmaster lies a collection that was created back in the late 1960s, as a new offering for the brand with a sporty-chic approach, in opposition to the instrumental look and feel of the Superman, Speedgraf, Rallygraf, Yachtingraf or Flygraf. The idea behind the Wristmaster, and its feminine counterpart the Wristlady, was to offer dressier models that were still usable for sporty activities, thanks to a reinforced water-resistance. Offered in a variety of shapes and styles, this collection is now relaunched with two distinct models, one clearly inspired by the past – the Wristmaster Adventurer – and a more modern one – the Wristmaster Traveller – that you’ll discover in the second part of this article.
As said, if there was a wide variety of shapes and designs within the Wristmaster collection, Yema has decided to go for something typical of the late 1960s to create its vintage-inspired model, the Yema Wristmaster Adventurer – to be precise, the model reference 5114 that you can see in the book above. This means a watch that is certainly a faithful ode to the past, both in style and execution.
The case, made of stainless steel, has a typical neo-vintage look with a barrel shape and lugs that are in continuity with the sides of the case. The surfaces are either vertically brushed on the top, or polished on the sides. In keeping with the vintage theme, this Yema Wristmaster Adventurer is equipped with a highly domed Hesalite crystal. The case measures a compact 37mm in diameter and 12mm in height, with a reasonable 48mm lug-to-lug measurement. Surprisingly, the water-resistance is comfortable at 100m and the overall execution is clean and pleasant.
Two versions of the Yema Wristmaster Adventurer will be available through the Kickstarter campaign, both sharing the same overall design. Again to stay faithful to the past models, the dial is showing large, raised silver indices and classic baton hands. A crosshair sits in the middle and the historic “Wristmaster” logo has been recreated at 6 o’clock. Hands are coated with luminescent material and small luminous dots sit next to the applied indices. The Wristmaster Adventurer will be available either with a warm and very pleasant beige dial or with a bolder and slightly more modern blue dial.
Under the screwed caseback, with yet again engravings that refer to the past of the brand, is the calibre YEMA2000. This automatic movement, produced in France, is the brand’s alternative to the classic ETA and Sellita ébauches. With 29 jewels and running at 4Hz, it features a hacking seconds device and is regulated to about -/+ 10 seconds/day. It boasts 42 hours of power reserve.
The Yema Wristmaster Adventurer is worn on a vintage-style strap in brown leather, closed by a steel pin buckle. It will be available for orders through Kickstarter from November 15th to November 30th, 2021. Early Bird price, which includes a copy of the history book, is EUR 399. A fair price for a watch that offers quite a lot.
Quick facts: 37mm x 48mm L2L – stainless steel case with 100m water-resistance – domed Hesalite crystal – demi-glossy dark blue or beige crosshair dials – Calibre YEMA2000, automatic, 4Hz, 42h power reserve – brown leather strap with pin buckle – from EUR 399 on Kickstarter, expected retail price of EUR 590.
The Yema Wristmaster Traveller
The second watch to be offered as part of the crowdfunding campaign is a more contemporary development on the concept. Christopher Bôle, Managing Director and Head of Design of Yema, has worked on a watch that will pick up some of the elements of the past models but also answers the current demand for so-called luxury sports watches with integrated bracelet.
Bôle explains that he “drew inspiration from two distinct YEMA vintage models dating from the 1960s (for the octagonal case) and the 1980s (for the bezel). His original idea was to design a sporty watch with an elegant design for daily use.” The result is a watch with less retro feel but in return a sportier, more contemporary attire. The case, measuring 39mm in diameter and, as often with these watches equipped with an integrated bracelet, has a short lug-to-lug measurement of only 43.5mm. The case has a light cushion shape overall, with a bezel that features 6 slight recesses.
Compared to the previous Adventurer model, there’s not much in common, and not only design-wise. The case is here finished with greater attention to design, with brushed surfaces enlightened by polished bevels all around – which makes the watch surprisingly well finished considering the price. It also features a flat sapphire crystal on top and retains the same 100m water-resistance. The glossy black dial is somehow a bridge between the Wristmaster and the Superman collection, with its oversized and beige-coloured printed markers – with a certain diver’s inspiration – and hands that are shared with the brand’s aquatic model. The historic Wristmaster signature still sits at 6 o’clock.
Under the caseback is the same YEMA2000 automatic calibre, with 42h power reserve, quick date, stop-seconds and a 4Hz frequency. More importantly, the Yema Wristmaster Traveller comes equipped with an integrated stainless steel bracelet, equally well finished, with brushed flat surfaces and polished bevels on the sides. It is closed by a triple folding clasp and the overall quality is rather impressive – once again, with the price in mind.
The Yema Wristmaster Traveller will be available for orders through the same Kickstarter campaign as the Adventurer model, from November 15th to November 30th, 2021. Early Bird price, which includes a copy of the history book, is EUR 499.
Quick facts: 39mm x 43.5mm L2L – stainless steel case with 100m water-resistance – sapphire crystal – glossy black dial with printed oversized markers and hands with Super-LumiNova Old Radium – Calibre YEMA2000, automatic, 4Hz, 42h power reserve – integrated steel bracelet with triple folding clasp – from EUR 499 on Kickstarter, expected retail price of EUR 790
Note that a Collector’s Bundle will also be offered at EUR 1,199, including the 3 Yema Wristmaster models and a copy of the book. Deliveries are scheduled for December 2021. For more details and to register your interest, please check kickstarter.yema.com.